By Benjamin Witte-Lebhar
Although the next presidential election is still more than a year and a half away, campaign season has already kicked off in Nicaragua, at least for the two "caudillos" who have dominated the country's politics during the past two decades: current (and former) head of state Daniel Ortega and former President Arnoldo Aleman (1997-2002).
Borrowing a page from the book of famed US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Aleman, the longtime head of the conservative Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC), went public March 21 with his "dream" of recovering the Nicaraguan presidency.
"I've had a dream," Aleman told supporters in Boaco, "to see a Nicaragua of equal opportunities, so that the sons of a peasant, or a worker, or a professional can all rise up and be whatever they want to be. That is a liberal dream."
"That's why today," he went on, "I ask my dear friends in Boaco, in Matagalpa, in all of Nicaragua, to give me another opportunity to build the Nicaragua that we all want and all deserve."
Aleman is not the only larger-than-life Nicaraguan politician dreaming of yet another chance to lead the country. President Daniel Ortega of the leftist Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN) has also made it clear that he would like to compete in the November 2011 election, even if that means sidestepping the nation's Constitution.
"If we are going to be just and fair, let the right to re-election be for all. People can use their votes to award or punish," Ortega told supporters last July.
Power for power's sake
The early maneuverings by Aleman and Ortega hardly come as a surprise. The two men, leaders of the country's two dominant parties, are longtime fixtures in Nicaragua's political structure. And, their political ambitions seem to know no bounds.
Ortega, a key player in the 1979 Sandinista revolution, has competed in every presidential election since 1984, when he won his first five-year term as head of state (1985-1990). The FSLN leader lost the next three elections, but, thanks to changes in the country's election rules, won a second mandate in the 2006 contest (see NotiCen, 2006-11-09). Aleman served just one term as Nicaragua's president, leaving office in January 2002, but continues to exert behind-the-scenes authority in the PLC.
Still, while it is hardly a shocker that Aleman and Ortega hope to face off in next year's presidential contest, their respective candidacies--particularly from a legal...